Balotelli and Rossi believe Italy ready to challenge for World Cup trophy
Italy striker Mario Balotelli is confident about his side’s ability to contend for the World Cup title in Brazil. The Azzuri picked up a 2-1 victory over the Czech Republic with the winner coming on a spot-kick goal from Balotelli.
Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini equalized after Czech Republic’s Libor Kozak’s drew first blood in the first half. The match had many twists and turns, but seemed to be heading towards a draw, but a surprise penalty kick goal from Balotelli changed the fate for Italy, who have now qualified for the final stage of the World Cup.
“I think we're among the favorites,” Balotelli told RAI Sport. “There are one or two teams above us, but they should fear us, not the other way around.”
Italy midfielder Daniele De Rossi shared similar sentiments. The Roma skipper believes Italy manager Cesare Prandelli had built a ‘special’ team that will be capable of challenging for top honors during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
“This team is special because it started from scratch with a different mentality and group of players, restoring enthusiasm as well as results,” De Rossi told RAI Sport. “This side also plays good football. Winning is rare, but these are the players who will step forward in a bid to do it again.
“We faced Brazil on a par and played well against Argentina despite missing many players. We reached the Euro 2012 Final and only lost against perhaps the best team ever. As we saw in 2006, the strongest team on paper doesn’t always win, as back then France had something more in terms of individuals. If you create an excellent group then anything can happen.”
Italy had the lion’s share of ball possession and the bigger number of attacks. However, the Azzuri wasted a lot of time in front of the sticks trying to bring in the perfect play, which left Balotelli frustrated and alone in front of the goal fairly too often.
The AC Milan striker admits his side needs to perfect their gameplay. Balotelli also admitted he was frustrated, although he never stopped looking for an opportunity to score.
“Missing that many chances has never happened to me before,” Balotelli added. “When (Czech Republic goalkeeper Petr) Cech parried that shot I thought he would get it if I fired low, so I tried to raise the finish and went too high. I was unlucky, but I just kept trying until the end.”